Kochi stay mathematically alive with a thumping win
The short boundaries in Indore proved to be bad masters for Rajasthan Royals. The small playing field seemed to be playing on their minds as batsman after batsman in the middle order perished to reckless strokes. Brad Hodge was at the receiving end of those gifts, ending up with a career-best 4 for 13, but it was perhaps a tight first spell from Sreesanth - three overs for 15 runs and the wickets of Rahul Dravid and Ajinkya Rahane - that set the desperation in. Kochi chased the paltry 98 in style, giving their net run-rate a boost too.
Coming into the game, both the teams had an outside chance of making it to the play-offs, but Rajasthan didn't seem too optimistic on that front. They knew the remoteness of the outside chance, and took the opportunity to make six changes to their side. Rajasthan now stand knocked out, and Kochi, with 12 points from 13 games, need to win their last game and need Kolkata and Punjab to lose theirs.
None of Rajasthan's experiments worked. RP Singh and Sreesanth offered no freebies. Faiz Fazal was caught plumb in front by a full toss before Sreesanth got Dravid with a nice outswinger. Rahane followed up a flick from wide outside off to mid-on with a shuffle too far across, making it 26 for 3 in 5.2 overs.
Rajasthan didn't look to rebuild; they knew they would need a substantial total here. Ashok Menaria began with a six off Sreesanth, Shane Watson with three off debutant left-arm spinner P Prashanth. At 56 for 3 after eight, it seemed like Rajasthan were on their way back, but Watson played all around a full delivery from Prasanth Parameswaran.
Now began the Hodge show. He kept tossing the ball up, the Rajasthan batsmen kept trying to hit the ball into the jungles of Madhya Pradesh. All of Hodge's four victims thought they could hit him for sixes; they could not have been more wrong. Pinal Shah managed to go as far as long-on, Jacob Oram failed to even get a touch, Shane Warne dragged one slog-sweep on, and Menaria found long-off. When Menaria fell, Rajasthan had slumped to 89 for 9 in the 16th over, and they were not going to get many more.
Brendon McCullum came out obsessed with improving his team's net run-rate, charging at Shaun Tait first ball. Tait didn't do himself any favours, bowling two no-balls in the first over. One of them - when he cut the side crease - had bowled McCullum. After hitting Tait for a four and six in the first over, McCullum proceeded to treat Oram as a club bowler, nonchalantly flicking him for three straight sixes. When MCullum fell for a 12-ball 29, it was important for Kochi to keep scoring fast. Hodge and Parthiv Patel didn't disappoint, ending the chase in 7.2 overs. It was the second-biggest win in terms of balls remaining in IPLs and the fourth-biggest in all Twenty20 matches.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo